World this week
EU states agreed to launch a new military mission off the Libyan coast to enforce a shaky UN arms embargo. The 27 governments still have to draft a legal text for the mission, after agreeing it in principle in Brussels. "The main objective is the arms embargo," said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. The UN-recognised government in Tripoli is under attack from the forces of General Khalifa Haftar, which control most of eastern and southern Libya.
The EU's new naval and air mission is to operate in the eastern Mediterranean, away from the migrant-smuggling routes from Libya which have caused bitter divisions in the EU. Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said that if the EU ships proved to be a "pull factor" for migrants desperate to reach Europe "the mission will be stopped". Austria led opposition to renewing EU naval patrols off the Libyan coast, but finally accepted a new mission with a different mandate from Operation Sophia, which had sought to stop people-smuggling gangs.
Syrian troops made significant advances against the last rebel held enclaves in the country's northwest, state media said, consolidating the government's hold over the key Aleppo province. The Syrian government advance also appeared to put the provincial capital of Aleppo out of the firing range of opposition groups for the first time in years, another sign of Syrian President Bashar Assad's growing control of the area.
The armed opposition had been driven out of Aleppo city's eastern quarters in late 2016, which they controlled for years while battling government forces who were in charge in the western part. Rebel groups had continued to harry government forces, however, from outside the city with mortar rounds. State news agency SANA reported 30 villages and towns around the city in the western Aleppo countryside were captured. The Syria Observatory for Human Rights, based out of Britain, confirmed the report.
The Indian government rejected the latest offer by UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, saying that it would only discuss the matter bilaterally. Speaking in Islamabad at the beginning of a four-day visit to Pakistan, Guterres said he had offered his offices and was 'ready to help if both countries agree for mediation.'
In a response later, the Indian ministry of external affairs' official spokesperson said: 'The issue of Jammu and Kashmir that needs to be addressed is that of vacation of the territories illegally and forcibly occupied by Pakistan. Further issues, if any, would be discussed bilaterally. There is no role or scope for third party mediation.' The UN secretary-general has offered several times to mediate on the issue, and had repeated the offer last September after India-Pakistan tensions flared over the government's decision to amend Article 370 and impose restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir.
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